Former president Jimmy Carter condemned Indonesian military and government officials today for "supporting, directing and arming" East Timorese militias responsible for attacks aimed at disrupting an independence vote for the territory later this month.
In a statement released in the East Timorese capital Dili by the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which is observing preparations for the Aug. 30 vote, Carter said, "Some top representatives of the government of Indonesia have failed to fulfill their main obligations with respect to public order and security."
He said observers in East Timor have amassed evidence that "Indonesian military and other government agencies are supporting, directing and arming pro-integration militias to create a climate of fear and violence." He also said Indonesian police, the main security force in East Timor, "in some cases have colluded with pro-integration militias."
Carter is the latest foreign observer, and among the most prominent, to criticize the government's handling of security before the East Timor vote. Western diplomats who regularly visit East Timor, as well as human rights groups and independence supporters, have accused the Indonesian military and intelligence services of tacitly backing, if not directing, the two dozen or so militias responsible for a wave of massacres, assassinations and village burnings.
Despite the criticism, the top U.N. officials involved in East Timor predicted the referendum will be held on schedule. "There will be no delay of the ballot, I am convinced of that," said Jamsheed Marker, the special U.N. representative for East Timor.
Even if East Timor votes for independence, the decision must be ratified by Indonesia's parliament, which is not necessarily a formality. After last June's elections--the most democratic here in four decades--the largest party in the new parliament will be Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. Many of its officials, including Megawati, are known to oppose independence for East Timor, and they are angry that President B.J. Habibie pushed through the referendum plan without consulting opposition parties or parliament.